Widescreen, Epic-Scale Horror: An Advance Review Of These Savage Shores #1

by Olly MacNamee

These Savage Shores #1 from Vault Comics lands next week in comic book stores everywhere, telling the tale of vampirism in India; a country that even today is better known by the name us invading Europeans gave it, after one of this country’s mighty river, Indus. Not only is it an immediately gripping, enthralling story from the pen of rising star Ram V, but the artwork by Sumit Kumar is astoundingly beautiful and appropriately dark when it needs to be too, building an exotic, dangerous, untamed world on the brink of rapacious colonisation and exploitation of its people, its resources, its very culture and history. The European may be coming, but not everyone is taking it lying down.
Upon this majestic, sweeping backdrop of colonial era architecture at odds with the more ancient, grand buildings and temples of ancient India, we meet the shadowy, sensuous Bishan, a man full of mythical tall tales (or are they?) and secrets. But, for the most part, this debut issue deals with the aristocratic Alain Pierrefont, who is sent to India to escape persecution at home for crimes he has committed that I will let the reader find out about when picking up this promising book. Just like in today’s modern world – and thus has it ever been so, it would seem –  there’s one law for the poor and one more for the wealthy.

One period drama, one part horror and another part commentary on the colonisation of this vast sub-continent, Savage Shores #1 has at least one of the local ‘savages’ not take this takeover sitting down, but the way in which Bishan does fight back may not be immediately apparent.
Sumit’s remarkable light, delicate and detailed artwork reminds me in places of the modernism and creative layout sensibilities of Francis Manapul, crossed with the more horrific leanings of horror artists extraordinaire, José Ortiz, which is high praise indeed. Sumit is just as comfortable depicting the mighty cutters of the East Indian Tea Company (surely one of the first examples of globalisation and the vast powers of corporations when compared with governments) sailing towards India, as he is illustrating the more terrifying moments of vampirism within this issue. Simply put, Sumit’s mastery of both the sublime and the gothic is a marvel to take in with the naked eye. Speaking of ‘eyes’ there is no doubt that Ram V has always had an eye for the right sort of artists on all of his books, and Sumit is no exception.
Vittorio Aston’s colours only helps elevate Sumit’s art with India bathed in golden yellows and oranges with the coming night enveloped in more cooler colours. His work in creating a believable India of yesteryear (1766 to be precise) gives this whole book an epic, large-scale cinematic scope to proceedings. It reminded me of some of the more majestic of vampire films, particularly Neil Jordan’s 1994 film, Interview With The Vampire, as well as narrative beats straight outta Dracula. Particularly the ship’s captain’s diary entries that inform the readers of Dracula’s presence on board the ship sailing for Whitby in England. It all adds to a sense of foreboding terror that hangs over the book and which is part of its charm and part of the reason you’ll be gripped, like Lucy Westenra under the spell of Vlad Dracula.

Savage Shores #1 (an ironic title, surely, given who are the true savages here) is a must read. If we were the kind of site that picked out ‘books of the week’, then this one would most definitely be at the top of that list. Widescreen, epic-scale horror at its best.
These Savage Shores #1 is out Wednesday, the 3rd of October from Vault Comics.

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